HK TV-Based Net Service Sees 100,000 Users

Hong Kong and China Gas (Towngas) last week said its TV-based Internet service in the territory, iCare, will attract about 100,000 subscribers in its first year of operation, according to company officials at the launch of its electronic services via TV-based set-top boxes in Hong Kong.

"It is the first time that housewives and people who don't know how to use the PC, including those who don't read English, (can) get on the Internet," said Sunny Lee, chief information officer at Hong Kong and China Gas, explaining that easy navigation buttons help neophytes to surf the Web.

The TV set-top boxes complete the line of Web-based service offerings, which include a portal and Internet access, that Towngas is offering its 1.3 million customers, officials said.

According to Lee, the Towngas sales force was deployed to develop a test market from 3,000 new households that had required gas services installed. "For every 10 people that we asked, three signed up (for the iCare service), so it's very promising and we are very confident about (iCare's) success," he added.

About 90 percent of customers, Lee estimates, would opt to subscribe instead of purchasing the set-top boxes since the TV-based Web service is new and "people might not want to pay a lot of money up front."

Pricing for the iCare service has been designed to make the service attractive to potential subscribers, said Lee.

"We're offering an introductory special rate of HK$85 a month," Lee said. "In the future it will depend on market response and competition."

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